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Bizarre clown terror spreads in France

By Agence France-Presse in Melun, France | China Daily | Updated: 2014-10-29 07:54

A 14-year-old dressed as a clown was arrested on Monday near Paris for attempting to attack a woman. It was the latest incident in a bizarre phenomenon spreading around France involving fake clowns who terrorize people, apparently at random.

Complaints have poured in recently over "armed clowns" wreaking havoc in various parts of the country, and police have detained several pranksters - some carrying pistols, knives or baseball bats.

The phenomenon has even prompted anti-clown vigilantism, forcing police to step in to try and quell the hysteria by saying there have only been a few sightings of bad clowns.

On Monday, a woman who had just left her car at Chelles in the Paris suburbs called the police, saying two clowns - one of whom was armed with a fake ax - had attacked her, a source said.

The clowns escaped when a passer-by armed with a baseball bat intervened, and one of the pranksters was subsequently detained when police spotted him, white makeup still covering his face.

In a separate incident half an hour later, a dozen people wearing smiling white masks, which are associated with the Anonymous computer-hacking collective, attacked three youths at a station in Melun, also in the Paris suburbs. The assailants stole the youths' mobile phones, the police source said.

Clowns that terrify passers-by - a phenomenon that has been seen in the United States and Britain as well - cropped up in northern France in early October.

In Bethune, a 19-year-old received a six-month suspended jail term last week for threatening passers-by while dressed as a clown.

The clowns have been "mostly spotted outside schools, but also on roads, in bushes and in a square. Their targets are often young children or teenagers, but also adults", the police source said.

The phenomenon has now spread to the south.

Police arrested 14 teenagers dressed as clowns and carrying weapons on Saturday night in the Mediterranean port town of Agde.

In nearby Montpellier, a man disguised as a clown was arrested after beating a pedestrian with an iron bar.

Theories abound as to the origin of the not-so-funny trend of violence in a country where Halloween has yet to take hold.

The suggestions include a challenge launched on social networks, a popular video on YouTube showing a clown playing pranks on people, and even a recent episode of the popular TV series American Horror Story, featuring Twisty the killer clown.

(China Daily 10/29/2014 page12)

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